The Fight Against MTR, Round-Up

Weeks after the election of Barack Obama,  many community activists fighting mountain top removal are becoming weary that hope may not be on way.

And for good reasons.

Obama recently nominated Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  The representatives of dirty energy interests were quick to show their support.   From the grist:

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which lobbies on behalf of the energy sector, also struck a hopeful note on her selection. “Lisa Jackson is a dedicated public servant with time in service at the EPA and as head of a state agency. She has experience with enforcement and rulemaking matters,” he said. “Moreover, as head of an agency in New Jersey, she has had real-world experience dealing with areas of scenic beauty, large populations, and substantial industrial development. We hope that means she will bring a true sense of balance to a very complicated job.”

Others are not so happy. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) noted that as head of the NJ Department of Enironmental Protection, Jackson allowed New Jersey to get even dirtier, “as incredible as that may seem.”

More from the grist:

PEER also issued a highly critical press release earlier this week arguing that Jackson is “a pliant technocrat who will follow orders” and “should not run EPA.” “Jackson embraced policies at DEP echoing the very practices at the Bush EPA which Senator Barack Obama condemned during the presidential campaign,” PEER claims. “DEP employees describe Ms. Jackson as employing a highly politicized approach to decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific information, issuance of gag order and threats against professional staff members who dared to voice concerns.”

Critics also point out that Jackson was educated on a scholarship from the Shell Oil Corporation.

Obama has also announced the appointment of Carol Browner as a sort of  “environemental tsar.”  Her job will be to coordinate and oversee work on energy, environmental, and climate issues.  Carol Browner is a familiar name to folks who have been battling Mountain top Removal. During the Clinton years, when this mining process accellerated, Browner held a top position in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Such appointments are responsible for the recent spike in coal stocks.

In other news, several major environmental groups have launched the reality campaign.  Their primary message is that clean coal is non-existant. Yet, it only addresses the fact that technology is not yet capable of sequestering carbon dioxide. Of course, carbon dioxide is not the only thing that makes coal dirty. Focusing on this is dangerous because it directs efforts (and funding) to “clean coal technology” and away from renewable energies.

Cindy Rank sums it up perfectly:

As tempting as it is to become excited about this Reality Coalition campaign i feel compelled to remind us all that the Alliance for Climate Protection is focused only on the emissions aspect of burning coal.  The assumption being that once CO2 is captured and stored (as if that will ever be possible) then we have “clean coal”.
— not as long as any or all methods of mining violate the law, the land, the people or the workers
— not as long as transporting that coal bullies and endangers communities along narrow roads, school buses, local drivers
— not as long as careless coal trucks and trains overturn and spill into streams and roadways
— not as long as washing that coal leaves toxic sudge to sit in unlined ponds or injected underground where it can pollute water wells and streams and local communities
— not as long as storing and moving that coal produces excessive dust that causes asthma or black lung and coats homes and towns like Blair and Sylvester or endangers nearby schools like Marsh Fork Elementary
— not as long as blasting damages wells and homes and sinks streams
— not as long as subsidence makes sinkholes out of streams, dry savanahs out of farm ponds, and homes unliveable
— not as long as landgrabbing industry reps cheat, rob or otherwise trick homeowners to sell or to turn on their neighbors who don’t
— not as long as industry reps weasel their way into county politics at the expense of small outlying communities
— not as long as that black gold corrupts politics and politicians and regulatory agencies
— not as long as industry exercises the power of its purse to quash all who stand up and speak out
— not as long as the advertising arm of the coal and power industry purposely deludes the public to advance it’s own greed

Thank goodness some state, local and regional groups as well as some of the national groups are not limiting their efforts to concerns about emissions and wearing blinders to all other aspects of the whole cycle of coal – from cradle to grave so to speak.

Finally, let me share some good news. Mountain justice activists in Tennesee have been letting the Tennesee Valley Authority know it has been very naughty this year. The TVA is one of the largest burners of coal in the nation and they get alot of their fuel from mountain top removal sites. Recently, the activists dressed up as santas and elves and delivered switches and bags of coal to TVA headquarters.

They have even been singing carols, such as this one, set to the tune of jingle bells:

Burning Coal
Burning through the coal, burn it all today,
tearing up the mountains, blow them all away.
TVA burns coal, making lightbulbs bright,
What fun it is to light and heat all the homes tonight.
O Mining coal, mining coal, mine it all away
O What fun it is to drink coal pollution all day, hey.
Burning coal, burning coal, coughing all the way,(cough,cough,cough)
O What fun it is to breathe coal pollution all day. 
A day or two ago, I thought I’d take a ride
See my favorite mountain, was blasted out inside.
Trees were cut and gone, the mountaintop was bare,
Holes were drilled, explosives packed, blown up without a care.
A day or two ago, a story I must tell
I went out to town, economy had fell,
Coal stocks sliding by, getting weaker every day,
Funders step aside as we quickly drive them away.
Now the time is ripe, go it while you’re strong,
Smash the grid tonight, and sing this smashing song,
Just get a bike today, 21 gears as its speed,
And when the coal runs out, you’ll pedal to the lead.

Here are their videos and pics:

Visit the links to see when santa is coming to town again.


You can find A LOT more news concerning the fight against MTR by visiting OHVEC is one of the community organizations standing up to Big Coal in West Virginia. They update their news page daily.


4 Responses to “The Fight Against MTR, Round-Up”

  1. Update: Just got this in an email sent from Bonnie Swifford on the Mountain Justice list-serve.

    Santa Clause was arrested while delivering stockings
    of coal and bundles of switches to the CEO’s of the
    Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Delivering coal is
    the least favorite part of Santa’s job but when TVA
    held a public meeting at their office in Chattanooga;
    Santa knew he had to deliver years of backlog coal
    first hand.

    At the board meeting Santa waited patiently for his
    turn to talk and then he told all the bad children why
    he was there. Santa told the TVA board and the coal
    executives attending the meeting that he had to
    deliver them lumps of coal not because they needed any
    more coal but because he was sent by the little
    children of Appalachia.

    TVA is the largest purchaser of coal in North
    America–if not the planet and Santa apparently got
    allot of letters from children asking for his help.

    The letters to Santa read were from sad children who
    could not go outside and play sometimes because of
    days were it is literally unhealthy to breathe in

    Santa read letters from children sad that to many of
    their grandparents die slow deaths of extended
    asphyxiation while lugging around bottled oxygen.

    Santa read children’s letters complaining that
    mountains are being blown up to get at that coal. The
    children said they felt that the drinking water was
    important and that they liked playing in the forest.

    While telling his story, Santa was surrounded by
    police officers hired by TVA, handcuffed and hauled

    Santa is a long time activist and stands in solidarity
    with United Mountain Defense, Three River Earth
    First!, Mountain Justice and coal-impacted residents
    of Appalachia.

    Please help Santa fill his stocking to get out of jail
    by sending jai support donations to the pay pal
    account at

    You can also send checks to:
    P.O. Box 20363
    Knoxville, TN 37920
    Please Mark Check: “For Jail Support”

    For The Mountains
    One angry elf

  2. Something else,
    Thanks to the work of the Mountain Justice movement, Bank of America has decided to phase out its funding for mountain top removal coal mining. Several Bank of America execs actually came out to Kayford Mountain and saw for themselves the destruction they facilitated.
    Here is what the rainforest action network in Boston had to say:
    Rising Tide Boston not fooled by Bank of America’s “Coal Policy”; plans to break up with them this Valentine’s Day

    Rising Tide Boston wishes to announce that the group will continue its part in the widespread campaign to pressure Bank of America to drop its involvement with the coal industry, despite the bank’s recent release of a new “Coal Policy”. We view this so-called policy as a PR gimmick intended to distract the public from Bank of America’s ongoing funding of the coal industry. Bank of America’s Coal Policy fails to commit to a timeline or any concrete action to halt their financing of mountain top removal coal mining, and the alternatives the bank pledges to support are not solutions at all.

    Bank of America claims that they will “phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal.” Without having any sort of schedule, there is no way to know that Bank of America actually intends to follow through on their stated plan. If the bank’s intention is a “phase out” over a number of years, what does that mean for places being bombed or covered in toxic sludge every day? If and when Bank of America does drop companies like Massey Energy, we hope they would extend this action to all companies wreaking havoc on ecosystems and coalfield communities through strip mining.

    Bank of America says that they will promote technologies that “capture carbon from fossil fuel plants and then sequester that carbon in geologic reservoirs,” which is also problematic. At a period in history when climate-related disasters have become a reality for communities around the globe, there is no longer any time for putting our hopes in pie-in-the-sky solutions like carbon capture and storage. CCS technology will not be available to implement on a large scale for years, and with unnatural disasters increasing in frequency and intensity, we need to drastically cut our consumption – not wait for technological quick fixes.

    Somebody should let Bank of America know that a completely free and reliable form of carbon capture and storage already exists! It’s produced by two powerful forces: biological (capturing carbon in the form of living organisms) and geological (transforming carbon into a very stable form underground and inside of mountains). It’s called coal. If Bank of America wants to demonstrate their commitment to carbon storage, we recommend that they promote the practice of leaving fossil fuels inside the Earth where they belong.

    Rising Tide Boston also wishes to remind Bank of America that our concerns are not limited to “the environment” and that throwing us a bone like the “Coal Policy” won’t distract us from the bank’s practice of evicting our neighbors who have been hit hard by predatory lending and the mortgage crisis. Perhaps when we’ve heard conclusively from coalfield residents that strip-mining has stopped, when people stop being evicted from their homes across the U.S., and when Bank of America stops making a profit off industries that create climate chaos, we’ll “phase out” our campaign against them. In the meantime, we’ll be promoting February 14, 2009 (Valentine’s Day) as a major day of Bank of America account closures. Along with organizations resisting the current wave of evictions, Rising Tide Boston invites anyone who cares about a habitable planet and a livable community to join us in dumping Bank of America this Valentine’s Day. For more information about Rising Tide Boston, please visit: Stay tuned for updates about February 14th.

  3. Just in: Santa was let out of the slammer today and is going on a non-violent rampage.

    From Matt Landon,
    Dear Fellow Santas, elves, and reindeer, I just wanted to let you know that Santa was releasedand is heading out to TVA headquarters in Knoxvillefor another afternoon and evening of coal caroling. I hope you enjoy the youtube video as it is the firstvideo Santa created. Also check out the attachmentfor the latest coal carols. Merry Christmas, HO! HO! HO! has been released from the clutches of TVA in Chattanooga TN after beingdetained with out milk and cookies. Santa was issued a warning citation fordelivering switches and coal to the board of TVA at their quarterly meeting.The bad
    children did not like their stocking and ordered a trespass noticeagainst Santa stating that he will be arrested if he enters any TVA propertyagain this Christmas. Santa says “I am depending on all the little activist elves to deliver morecoal to federal agencies in hopes to influence the first 100 days of presidentelect Obama administration through the newly appointed agency heads. This newadministration must make stopping strip mining and addressing the destructiveimpact of coal on Santa’s children its first priority.” “New people are preparing to take over these federal agencies and it isthrough actions like this we can create a wave that influences how they act inthose first critical days of a new administration. Ho Ho Ho.” is good to be free, Thank you, Santa

  4. From the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy


    Appended is a brief message received from a trusted associate. It deals with the appointment of John Berry to the position of Interior Secretary. It further confirms what other sources have been suggesting, that being:
    John Berry appears to be incoming President’s top pick for the Interior Secretary position


    The Obama Transition Team could give Berry the nod as soon as Monday…
    …. and what a disaster that would be!!! Let me explain.

    John Berry has, my sources say blown past the environmental community’s favored candidate, Raul Grijalva.

    John Berry is almost certainly the candidate favored by the ANTI-environmental American Recreation Coalition — the lobby group that worked with Interior’s Paul Hoffman in an effort to weaken National Park policies and to open the parks to increased motorized recreation.

    John Berry was recently appointed to the ARC’s Outdoor Resources Review Group. Having Berry appointed Interior Secretary would be a phenomenal coup for the ARC.

    John Berry was the Department of Interior’s Recreation Fee Demonstration point-person. In that capacity Berry worked closely with the ARC’s President, Derrick Crandall. Crandall was a chief proponent of this immensely unpopular and contentions program. See Congressional testimony by both Berry and Crandall

    John Berry is the ONLY candidate now in the running who would be receptive to the pressures exerted by the American Recreation Coalition — and those pressures promote the privatization, commercialization and motorization of recreational opportunities in the National Parks and other public lands.

    ARC, I might add, was a highly visible and staunch supporter of the nominations of Interior Secretaries James Watt, Donald Hodel and Gale Norton. No one who loves the great outdoors should accept as Interior Secretary any nominee favored by the ARC.

    Barack Obama was elected because he promised to bring change. John Berry’s appointment would ensure continuity of the ARC’s dominance over recreation policies. Is this the “change” Mr. Obama promised us? I hope not!!!

    Pasted immediately below is the most current information I have in my possession. Below that you is contact information for the Obama Transition team, should you wish to weight in. Time is of the essence so please do not delay.


    —-my sources say —-

    This is bad news indeed – I would still encourage you
    to think about getting feedback directly into the
    Obama team about your concerns with Berry – they don’t
    want controversial people – or get those concerns to
    some of the congressional delegates who have
    championed against fee demo and ask them to spread the
    word about these concerns.

    Word I heard at my meeting was that Grijalva and
    Thompson were fading and that Berry was rising. I
    don’t have any sense of where the big nationals stand,
    but I would encourage you to try to get this out
    beyond the usual crowd and make the transition team
    uncomfortable with the idea. I don’t think you have
    much time – he’ll have to be announcing Interior and
    Ag soon.

    —- contact information for the Obama Transition Team —
    John Podesta, Obama Transition Team Head
    e-mail, Fax 202-682-1867

    Greg Nelson – liaison to Mr. Podesta
    e-mail, Fax 202-443-4724


    Voice: 202-540-3000, then dial 2

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